There’s a many-hued musical plumage here, but their best song remains their albatross

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Album Review: Surfer Blood - 'Astro Coast' (Kanine)


Album Review: Surfer Blood – ‘Astro Coast’ (Kanine)

Ahhh, The Killer First Tune. The one that so perfectly encapsulates what you’re all about that it becomes impossible to follow. Curse of so many flash-in-the-pan bands past like… nope, sorry, forgotten. Everyone, so the saying goes, has got one great song in them. But two? Or 10? That’s more difficult.

[b]Surfer Blood[/b] have definitely got The One. Yeah, it is essentially [b]Brian Eno[/b]’s [b]‘Needles In The Camel’s Eye’[/b] as performed by [b]Weezer[/b], but turns out this is actually a fabulous idea that no-one else has thought of (plus the lyrics – [i]“Lucid afternoon dream/Cosmopolitan scene”[/i] – are magnificently meaningless poetry). [b]‘Swim (To Reach The End)’[/b] more than justified the avalanche of hype that followed [b]Surfer Blood[/b] at the end of 2009, and here it sticks out like a majestic, reverb-laced sore thumb. They’ve got plenty of other moves: [b]‘Floating Vibes’[/b] is hi-fi [b]Sonic Youth[/b] with a nifty [b]J Mascis[/b] solo thrown in; [b]‘Take It Easy’[/b] is pretty, light, calypso-disco topped with the sweetest of falsettos; two-minute instrumental [b]‘Neighbour Riffs’[/b] has the [b]‘Marquee Moon’[/b] entwining guitar line thing down pat; [b]‘Catholic Pagans’[/b] is a great title, and contains more good-stupid imagery ([i]“I fell apart and combed my hair/Whiskey shakes for two whole days”[/i]). In truth, though, it’s when they repeat the [b]‘Swim…’[/b] trick – big, simple riff, loads of echo on the vocals, as displayed on [b]‘Twin Peaks’[/b] and [b]‘Fast Jabroni’[/b] – that [b]Surfer Blood[/b] are at their most exciting, and when they sound like a band you’d want to get to know better.

All the best debuts are like a slap in the face, and [b]‘Astro Coast’[/b] shows a band who have got the slap in them, for sure. Here, though, there are just too many ideas for a first encounter. The good ones are special, no doubt, but a lot of the others are just other people’s and lack the stamp of a band who know exactly who they are and what they’re about. No one’s suggesting they should have just written 10 [b]‘Swim…’'[/b]s, but the six-minute [b]‘Anchorage’[/b], for example, is painfully anonymous.

The great ones, though, should just about see them through. For now.

[b]Hamish MacBain[/b]

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Click here to get Surfer Blood’s ‘Astro Coast’ from the Rough Trade shop